Category Archives: reviews

Review: A Big Guy Took My Ball!

A Big Guy Took My Ball!
A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Not my favorite Elephant & Piggie but Mo Willems is like Pixar to me — even his weaker books are still better than most!

Like most of the Elephant & Piggie tales, this story doesn’t end up where you think it will, and I think teaching kids to not always assume and expect things is a good idea. There’s a lot to talk about with a child in these very few pages – you could discuss what to do when you find something unattended, what is a bully, and about confrontation.

Not my favorite of the bunch but still lots of great moments.

Plus, this picture just broke my heart:

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Review: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! by Nathan Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nathan Hale (the author, not the spy) does a great job of making history fun for kids. This is a great book to give to young readers who have any interest in the Civil War, American History, or battles in general. Heck, even if you’re worried they are *losing* interest in the above, give it to them so they can find out about this historical adventure.

The premise of the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is that Nathan Hale (the revolutionary war spy, not the author) was hit by a magical history book and now has all of American history in his brain. He uses his new skill to stall the hangman’s noose, telling them stories of the “future”. In “Big Bad Ironclad”, Hale tells them about the battles between the Merrimack and the Monitor during the Civil War.

Filled with lots of humor and action, this is a great pick for fans of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and those younger kids who ask for “books about war” but don’t want to read the dry tomes in the adult non-fiction collection.

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Review: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

I listened to this on my drive to work for a few weeks and I loved it. It felt like I was back in college, listening to a wonderful lecture series on the history of cooking and how humans have manipulated ingredients to create food.

Like In Defense of Food, Cooked is a mix of microhistories, anecdotes and a dash of politics (but just a dash). Less preachy than In Defense of Food, this book focuses on baking (bread), cooking with fire (BBQ), and fermentation (plants, dairy and alcohol). But within these three activities, Pollan finds a wealth of cultural and historical things to discuss. You will finish this this book full of random factoids about all the foods you eat and the science and stories behind them.

Be warned, you will find yourself craving some delicious barbecue, cheese, and beer before this book is through!

I highly recommend this in audiobook format, though it is a great read too. But Pollan’s conversational tone helps the hours on the road fly by. It would be a good listen for teens/young adults who will enjoy hearing those bits of history you never get in school.

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Review: My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece
My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t been so choked up while reading a book in a long time. This book is a real heart-breaker.

Summary: Jamie’s sister Rose was killed during the London bombings. Jamie’s family has been broken ever since – his mother and father drifting apart, acting as though the urn in the living room is still a real girl while Rose’s twin sister Jasmine tries to find her identity, and getting upset with Jamie when he doesn’t cry over the lost sibling. Of course, it’s hard for Jamie to remember a time when the family was happy: he was only a toddler when Rose died. Yet his parents ask him regularly to talk about Rose and cry about Rose even ten years later. Now his father has moved Jamie and his sister out to the country but sadly, the isolation only lets his father turn into a complete drunk and Jamie finds himself alone, trying to understand a world that doesn’t make sense.

This book is very well written but it is a tough read. Jamie is naive and innocent and the reader will know when he is being led astray, and it’s painful to watch as the adults in his life fail him in more ways than one. While I felt the ending might have been a little too hit-you-over-the-head with meaning, to Pitcher’s credit, she didn’t make everything magically better a few days later. This book is all about the slow healing process of getting over the loss of a loved one.

This would be a great book discussion title (in fact, I read it because of Books for the Beast in October), but it’s not exactly a fun read. But the story will probably resonate with those born post-9/11 who watch their parents and other adults in their lives mourn that day, and wonder why we still cry even though it seems so long ago.

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Review: Mitchell’s License

Mitchell's License
Mitchell’s License by Hallie Durand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I checked this out because I really love Tony Fucile’s art style. The book was not a disappointment! It’s adorable and sweet and a great story with great illustrations. It’s about a little boy who doesn’t want to go to bed until his dad gives him a “license” to drive (Dad is the car). It has a lot of humor and heart. The large pictures and quick text will make this good for read-alouds too. Don’t be surprised if it’s on one of my storytime lists soon!

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Review: Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever

Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever
Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore this series, perfect for the precocious beginning chapter book reader since the language and humor can be a bit advanced, even if there are only a few sentences on each page. Tony Fucile’s artwork is some of the best out there (he works for Disney/Pixar so it is not really a surprise).

In this book Gollie discovers her great-great-[…]aunt was royalty and decides she will be queen for awhile (Bink is not amused), Bink decides she should be tall and places and order with Acme, and then Bink & Gollie decide they want to break a world record of some kind…and end up making their own fun.

I always recommend these titles for parents and kids to read together because I feel like the humor and art will appeal to all ages.

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Review: That Is Not a Good Idea!

That Is Not a Good Idea!
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another hit from Mo Willems! Super cute and I loved the ending.

It’s meant to look like a silent film, with the pictures on one page and the text on a blank black page. The little chicks are the “viewers” reacting to the story.

I think this would be really fun for storytime, especially if you’re good at doing different voices – a sinister voice for the wolf, a sweet, innocent voice for the duck, and then a frantic set of voices for the little chicks.

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